How to Reduce Bloating?
You’re on a diet, hitting the gym regularly, avoiding junk food, and doing abdominal exercises. So, why do you still experience bloating? It appears suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, but there it is, sticking with you and showing no intention of leaving.
Bloating is a sensation of fullness or pressure in the abdomen that can cause discomfort or pain. There are many possible causes of bloating, ranging from dietary factors to medical conditions.
In this article, we will primarily focus on abdominal bloating and provide you with nutritional and lifestyle tips to reduce it. We will also discuss foods that can help alleviate bloating and how to read nutrition labels to avoid ingredients that trigger it. Additionally, we’ll talk about the long-term effects of bloating and when to seek professional help if bloating becomes a chronic issue.
Finally, we will provide some recipes and menu examples to help you prevent bloating and feel better. We hope this article is informative, and that you learn something new about bloating and how to combat it.
What is Bloating and What Are Its Main Causes? 8 Main Causes of Bloating
As mentioned earlier, bloating is a sensation of fullness or pressure in the abdomen that can cause discomfort or pain. It can be caused by numerous factors, and the most significant ones include:
1. Eating too quickly, inadequate chewing, or swallowing air when eating or drinking, which can lead to the formation of gas in the stomach or intestines, resulting in bloating and burping.
2. Consuming foods that produce gas, such as beans, cabbage, dairy products, high-fiber foods, or artificial sweeteners (see also: low fiber food list). These foods can ferment in the intestines and release gases that cause bloating and flatulence.
3. Intolerances or allergies to certain foods, such as lactose or gluten, which can irritate the intestines and lead to inflammation, diarrhea, bloating, and other symptoms.
4. Excessive salt or sodium intake, causes the body to retain fluids, increase blood vessel pressure, and lead to bloating.
5. Having liver, kidney, heart, or thyroid problems. These organs are responsible for regulating the balance of fluids and electrolytes in the body. When they don’t function properly, fluid can accumulate in the abdomen or other parts of the body, known as edema.
6. Pregnancy, where the uterus’s pressure on abdominal organs and hormonal changes can cause bloating, constipation, and other symptoms.
7. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) causes fluid retention, breast tenderness, abdominal discomfort, and bloating before menstruation.
8. Certain medications, such as corticosteroids, anti-inflammatories, antidepressants, contraceptives, or drugs for various conditions, which can disturb fluid and electrolyte balance and lead to bloating as a side effect.
Bloating can also be a symptom of more severe medical conditions, such as intestinal obstruction, infection, inflammation, tumors, cirrhosis, heart failure, kidney disease, celiac disease, or irritable bowel syndrome. Therefore, it’s essential to consult a doctor if bloating persists, becomes severe, is accompanied by other symptoms like fever, bleeding, vomiting, unexplained weight loss, or difficulty breathing, or does not improve with dietary and lifestyle changes.
In summary, common causes of abdominal bloating usually include digestive issues like constipation, intolerances, allergies, celiac disease, gallstones, and irritable bowel syndrome. More serious conditions like colon cancer, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and irritable bowel syndrome can also be contributing factors.
One condition on the rise, which I frequently encounter as a professional nutritionist, is irritable bowel syndrome. Therefore, I’d like to provide a brief section on it:
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Irritable bowel syndrome is a very common gastrointestinal disorder that affects 1 in 7 people. Once known as “spastic colon,” abdominal pain and abnormal bowel habits (constipation, diarrhea, or a combination of both) are key features of this gastrointestinal complication. Other symptoms that may occur include:
- Bloating (the feeling of a bloated balloon in the abdomen).
- Distention (an increase in abdominal circumference).
- Excess gas (flatulence).
- Urgency to defecate.
However, symptoms of IBS can vary widely among individuals and may fluctuate over time. These include:
- Abdominal pain
- Changes in bowel habits
- Bloating and distention
Lastly, there are specific symptoms considered “red flags” or “alarm features” in IBS. This is because they can also be present in more severe conditions such as celiac disease or inflammatory bowel disease. If you experience any of the following symptoms, be sure to inform your doctor:
- Blood in stools
- Unintentional weight loss
- Severe or progressively worsening symptoms
- Daily diarrhea
- Nighttime bowel movements
- Family history of other intestinal diseases
Infographic: 6 Ways to Reduce Your Bloating
Food That Can Cause More Bloating
When it comes to foods that can promote bloating, we should focus on two categories: foods that delay gastric emptying (foods that keep food in the stomach longer) and foods that can generate a high amount of gas:
Foods that delay gastric emptying:
- High-fiber foods, such as raw vegetables, legumes, dried fruits, seeds, whole grains, or products made from whole or multi-grain cereals. Fiber, being indigestible, acts as a barrier between digestive enzymes and food bolus, slowing down digestion, increasing gastric secretion, and extending the time food stays in the stomach, leading to a higher risk of bloating.
- Foods high in connective tissue. Connective tissue functions similarly to fiber and can be found in meat or meat products with a large amount of cartilage.
- Foods high in fat, such as very fatty meats and highly processed products. Fat is a compound that takes longer to digest in the stomach, leading to increased gastric juice secretion and longer food retention in the stomach, increasing the risk of bloating.
- Foods high in proteins, just like fats, proteins require more time for digestion in the stomach, resulting in more gastric work and an increased risk of bloating.
- Spicy or heavily seasoned foods, as these often increase gastric workload.
- Foods with a high caffeine content, like coffee, as caffeine is harmful to the gastric mucosa.
Foods that produce more gas:
Within these foods, we can mainly talk about FODMAPs, but you may be wondering, “What are FODMAPs? Are they a type of food I’m not familiar with?” Of course not; FODMAPs are not actually foods but compounds, and these are acronyms that stand for Fermentable, Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols.
FODMAPs are a group of sugars that are not fully digested or absorbed in our intestines. When FODMAPs reach the small intestine, they move slowly and attract water. When they pass into the large intestine, FODMAPs are fermented by intestinal bacteria, resulting in gas production. The excess gas and water make the intestinal wall stretch and expand. People with irritable bowel syndrome have a very sensitive intestine, so “stretching” the intestinal wall leads to exaggerated feelings of pain and discomfort.
So, where can we find these compounds in food? Here is a chart that clearly shows which foods to avoid if you have irritable bowel syndrome or any other condition that causes constant bloating. It’s important to note that it’s always advisable to consult a nutritionist or doctor who can provide specific guidance on how to progress with these foods:
|High FODMAP foods||Low FODMAP alternatives|
|Vegetables||Artichoke, asparagus, cauliflower, garlic, green peas, mushrooms, onion, sugar snap peas||Aubergine/eggplant, beans (green), bok choy, green capsicum (bell pepper), carrot, cucumber, lettuce, potato, zucchini|
|Fruits||Apples, apple juice, cherries, dried fruit, mango, nectarines, peaches, pears, plums, watermelon||Cantaloupe, kiwi fruit (green), mandarin, orange, pineapple|
|Dairy & alternatives||Cow's milk, custard, evaporated milk, ice cream, soy milk (made from whole soybeans), sweetened condensed milk, yoghurt||Almond milk, brie/camembert cheese, feta cheese, hard cheeses, lactose-free milk, soy milk (made from soy protein)|
|Protein sources||Most legumes/pulses, some marinated meats/poultry/seafood, some processed meats||Eggs, firm tofu, plain cooked meats/poultry/seafood, tempeh|
|Breads & cereals||Wheat/rye/barley based breads, breakfast cereals, biscuits and snack products||Corn flakes, oats, quinoa flakes, quinoa/rice/corn pasta, rice cakes (plain), sourdough spelt bread, wheat/rye/barley free breads|
|Sugars, sweeteners & confectionery||High fructose corn syrup, honey, sugar free confectionery||Dark chocolate, maple syrup, rice malt syrup, table sugar|
|Nuts & seeds||Cashews, pistachios||Macadamias, peanuts, pumpkin seeds/pepitas, walnuts|
- Soda Drinks: Carbonated beverages, such as sodas and sparkling water, can introduce air into the digestive tract, which can cause gas and bloating.
Lastly, it’s not just about food. Consider the following factors:
- Temperatures: Extreme temperatures, both hot and cold, can delay gastric emptying, leading to increased gastric secretion and more bloating.
- Consistencies: Liquid, semi-liquid, and soft consistencies can help avoid bloating since they are easier to digest.
Preventing and Treating Bloating
But how can you prevent or treat bloating when it has so many causes? Well, with so many possibilities, it’s essential to understand that the situation will be different for each individual and must be assessed on a case-by-case basis. However, here are some tips that might help in your situation:
- Avoid or limit the consumption of gas-producing foods like beans, cabbage, dairy, or artificial sweeteners. You can gradually reintroduce these foods into your diet and observe how well you tolerate them. You can also consider taking a digestive enzyme or probiotic supplement to improve digestion and balance your gut flora.
- Carefully select fruits and vegetables; when dealing with abdominal distension, it’s generally better to incorporate cooked fruits and vegetables, excluding skins, stems, seeds, or strings.
- Identify and avoid foods causing intolerance or allergies, such as lactose or gluten. You can undergo allergy or food intolerance testing to determine which foods to eliminate from your diet. Consult a nutritionist or dietitian to plan a balanced diet tailored to your individual needs.
- Reduce your salt or sodium intake, as it leads to fluid retention in the body. Substitute salt with spices, herbs, lemon, or vinegar for flavoring your meals. Avoid or limit the consumption of processed, canned, frozen, or pre-cooked foods, which often have high sodium content. It’s recommended to consume less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day or less than 1,500 milligrams if you have high blood pressure, diabetes, or kidney disease.
- Stay adequately hydrated by drinking between 1.5 and 2 liters of water per day or more if you exercise or sweat a lot. You can also enjoy herbal infusions like ginger, mint, or fennel, which help relieve bloating and gas. Avoid or limit alcoholic, carbonated, sugary, or caffeinated beverages, as they can dehydrate the body and cause bloating.
- Engage in regular physical activity to improve circulation, metabolism, and digestion. It’s recommended to perform at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity daily, such as walking, swimming, dancing, or cycling. Specific abdominal exercises like crunches, planks, or yoga can strengthen muscles and reduce bloating.
- Maintain a healthy weight to prevent pressure on abdominal organs and improve overall health. You can calculate your body mass index (BMI) to determine if your weight is appropriate for your height. A BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered normal, while a BMI below 18.5 is underweight, and a BMI above 25 is overweight or obese.
- Manage stress, as it can affect the nervous and digestive systems, causing bloating, spasms, ulcers, or irritable bowel syndrome. Practicing relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation, massage, or aromatherapy can reduce stress and enhance emotional well-being.
- Quit smoking, as it can irritate the stomach and esophagus, leading to bloating, acidity, reflux, or ulcers. Moreover, smoking increases the risk of cancer, heart diseases, strokes, and other serious health conditions.
- Wear comfortable clothing that doesn’t constrict the abdomen or hinder circulation.
- Avoid daily gum chewing.
- Eat slowly and mindfully.
5 Foods That Can Help Reduce Bloating
Ginger is known for its anti-inflammatory and digestive properties. It contains gingerol, a compound that can relax the gastrointestinal tract and reduce inflammation, thereby reducing bloating.
2. Yogurt and Fermented Foods
- Yogurt and other fermented foods, such as sauerkraut and kefir, contain beneficial probiotics for gut health. (Note that yogurt is a high FODMAP food, so this advice may not apply to individuals with irritable bowel syndrome.)
- Probiotics can help balance intestinal flora, improve digestion, and reduce bloating by minimizing gas production.
Papaya contains a digestive enzyme called papain, which can help break down proteins and facilitate digestion. This can reduce the workload on the digestive system and prevent bloating.
Pineapple is rich in bromelain, an enzyme that aids in the digestion of proteins. Like papain, bromelain can enhance digestion and reduce gas buildup in the intestines.
- Cucumbers are low in calories and high in water, helping to maintain adequate hydration and improve bowel movements.
- They also contain flavonoids with anti-inflammatory properties.
Tips for Planning Your Diet
If bloating is a persistent issue in your life, here are some tips for planning your diet. Keep in mind that every individual is unique, and bloating has multiple causes, so it’s always advisable to consult a professional:
- Keep a food diary:
- Maintain a record of what you eat and when you experience bloating. This will help you identify patterns and potential triggers.
- Stay hydrated:
- Dehydration can contribute to bloating, so be sure to drink enough water throughout the day.
- Consume fiber in a balanced manner:
- Fiber is essential for digestive health, but a sudden increase in fiber intake can cause bloating. Gradually increase your fiber consumption and opt for sources of soluble fiber, like oatmeal and fruits, which are less likely to cause gas.
- Avoid overeating:
- Overindulging in food, even healthy options, can lead to a sensation of bloating due to stomach dilation. Monitor your portion sizes and eat mindfully.
- Chew your food thoroughly:
- Proper chewing initiates digestion in your mouth and reduces the amount of air you swallow, improving digestion.
- Avoid trigger foods:
- Identify and avoid foods that you know trigger bloating. This may include spicy, fried, gassy, or foods containing lactose or gluten if you’re intolerant to them.
- Include anti-inflammatory foods:
- To reduce inflammation and bloating, incorporate foods like ginger, turmeric, and fatty fish (rich in omega-3 fatty acids) into your diet.
- Try probiotics:
- Consult a healthcare professional before taking probiotic supplements but consider adding probiotic-rich foods like yogurt and sauerkraut to promote gut health.
Frequently Asked Questions About How to Reduce Bloating
How to Reduce Bloating Immediately?
Reducing bloating is not a simple task and depends on the underlying cause. However, if we're talking about bloating due to dietary and lifestyle habits, here are six tips that can help reduce it quickly:
- Drink 2.5 to 3 liters of water daily.
- Avoid foods that can cause more bloating.
- Steer clear of foods that can lead to increased gas.
- Increase daily physical activity.
- Consume foods known to alleviate bloating.
How to Reduce Bloating and Gas?
Bloating from nutritional sources and excessive gas production can be minimized by reducing the intake of certain foods, such as:
- Cauliflower, legumes, broccoli, asparagus, onions, apples, pears, peaches, watermelon, milk, ice cream, processed meats, and carbonated beverages. Additionally, avoiding extreme temperatures (very cold or very hot) and steering clear of very solid consistencies can help reduce bloating.
How to Reduce Bloating During the Menstrual Period?
During the menstrual period, bloating is not necessarily gastrointestinal in origin, but some of these tips may be helpful:
- Reduce sodium intake.
- Increase potassium consumption.
- Boost physical activity levels adapted to the situation.
- Ensure proper rest with 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night.
How to Reduce Bloating After Eating?
To reduce bloating after eating, in addition to avoiding trigger foods, it is recommended to:
- Eat slowly.
- Chew each bite 15 to 20 times.
- Drink water before, during, and after meals.
- Eat in a calm environment.
- Avoid watching TV or using a mobile phone while eating.
- Avoid lying down after eating, at least for 1 hour.
Weekly Diet Plan to Reduce Bloating
|Breakfast||Gluten-free oatmeal bowl with strawberries and chia seeds|
|Smoothie with spinach, ripe banana, and lactose-free protein powder|
|Egg omelet with tomatoes.|
|Oatmeal bowl with banana and walnuts |
|Strawberry, kiwi, and lactose-free protein powder smoothie. Ginger tea||Gluten-free oat pancakes with blueberries and honey|
Caffeine-free herbal tea.
|Pineapple, kiwi, and spinach smoothie
|Lunch||Grilled chicken breast with steamed carrots.|
Quinoa with spinach and a touch of olive oil
|Ground pork tacos with corn tortillas, lettuce and tomato and rice.||Roasted turkey with peppers and carrots in the oven and boiled sweet potato||Beef sautéed with peppers and eggplants.|
|Grilled fish with steamed zucchini||Grilled chicken salad with spinach, strawberries, and almonds, dressed with lemon and olive oil vinaigrette.||Roasted turkey breast with zucchini stuffed with quinoa and herbs|
|Snack||Lactose-free yogurt with walnuts and ripe banana||Carrots and cucumbers with hummus without garlic||Tangerine||Lactose-free yogurt with fresh fruits||Carrots and cucumbers with hummus without garlic||Lactose-free yogurt bowl with berries and gluten-free granola||Guava|
|Dinner||Grilled salmon with roasted zucchini.|
Mashed potatoes with olive oil and herbs
|Curried chicken breast with roasted pumpkin||Baked whit fish with asparagus and dairy-free mashed potatoes||Curried chicken with kale, steamed carrots and|
|Shrimp tacos with corn tortillas, lettuce, and tomato||Thai style shrimp tacos with peanut sauce and coleslaw||Baked Salmon with Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Dairy-Free Mashed Sweet Potatoes|
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